For Day 2 of our Toronto Trip we decided to leave Yonge Street and the Eaten Centre and head off to Toronto’s Chinatown. I was expecting something similar to New York City’s Canal Street with the street shops, bootleg DVD’s and fake Purses. While those are fun and enjoyable at times they are also annoying and make walking down the street almost impossible.
We left our hotel and started the trek down Yonge Street for Chinatown with our lunch plans undetermined. After walking by a Korean BBQ place and being tempted we decided to have a light & cheap lunch and grab a bowl of Pho from Green Fusion, located right on Yonge. This was our first Pho attempt outside of Buffalo and Alli and I were pretty excited. Walking into the restaurant we noticed immediately that this was a good choice as we were the only english-speaking patrons inside (always a good sign for authentic cuisine). Alli ordered the Beef (top, roughly $5) and I ordered the Seafood (bottom, roughly $6). It was fairly typical with bean sprouts and rice noodles and available rooster sauce. Alli’s was really good, the broth was fantastic and the beef was very tender and rare when they brought out her bowl. My seafood was actually a little odd, the imitation crab wasn’t that great and the broth was noticeably very sweet. Needless to say it was a decent lunch (and reasonably healthy) and we saved ourselves some money that we planned on saving for future shopping that night.
For Toronto, their Chinatown really occupies the West Side of Dundas, a road that intersects Yonge and runs West to East. Instead of the shops that spill out into the streets, the shopping takes place actually inside stores (not much like Canal Street, which was nice). Walking down Dundas (which has a very hip, artistic vibe) you walk by Sushi restaurant after Sushi Restaurant (all advertising “All You Can Eat”). The buildings increasingly have less and less English written on their signs and you start to smell all these delicious restaurants coming from both sides of the street. We had read about a shopping center called Dragon City that has 3 floors of various food and shops and decided that was our first destination.
Walking into Dragon city I smelled this amazing dessert/waffle cone type scent coming from the corner. Surely enough, right as we walked there was a stand (pictured above) with two women making some type of waffle-like treat. I had literally no idea what it wasor really how I would order since very little if no English was spoken by anyone around. So I just walked over and gave the universal “1 Please” paid 3 dollars and received a bag with little “waffle buttons” and preceded to eat the order in less then 2 minutes. It truely was awesome and after getting back to the hotel later that night and doing some Google research I found out they are called Hong Kong Egg Waffles (I’m guessing because of the appearance). But in all seriousness, who doesn’t love a freshly cooked super sugary waffle?
As we walked deeper and deeper into Chinatown our original goal was to find Soup-filled Dumplings. We had only tried this out once before while visiting former Buffalo Eats staff member, Mike in New York City. They were pretty awesome and we’ve never seen anything like that since that trip in the summer of 2008. Well, after realizing that searching on our phones would roughly cost us $3,000 (thanks AT&T!) we walked around and hoped that something would stick out. Luckily we did in fact run into a fantastic hidden gem Banh Mi Ba Le. Now I’ve had Banh Mi (more info) once before but it was at 99 Fast Food and instead of the typical French Baguette roll they used a Constanzo’s roll (a Buffalo staple but not what I wanted). This location in Chinatown seemed incredibly authentic and smelled delicious. I ordered a Spicy BBQ Pork with all the fixings. Theirs had a great spread, a delicious mayo like sauce that was spicy and creamy that had just enough heat without becoming distracting. I’m not sure if this is the best place for Banh Mi in Toronto, but if you are in Chinatown I suggest stopping by for a sandwich. For 2.75 Canadian it is a fantastic steal for a large sandwich that would make for a great lunch.
After our Asian experiences we made it back to the Eaton Centre, did some more shopping, and started our search for our dinner location. For some reason, Fish and Chips was on our mind and we were slightly tempted to go to the Eaton Center’s food court and try out their “London Style Fish and Chips” but we decided that was pretty lame.
Looking through our magazines of the best places to eat in Toronto, The Duke of Kent stuck out for some reason. Were not sure why but we decided to drive a couple kilometers down Yonge Street and check out this English/Scottish Pub. Walking in, I automatically knew we made a great choice. The place seemed full of regulars and all were incredibly happy with pints of beer in hand. All of the beers on draft were heavy beers, most of which imported from England or Ireland. Already in the mood for an order of Fish and Chips we decided to split a large order (top, 12.99) and split a Traditional Shepherd’s Pie (bottom, 10.99). While Buffalo has a similar restaurant with WJ Morrisey’s (located next to HSBC Arena) I wasn’t as adventurous when i tried it and I can’t compare the Shepherd’s Pie. But if WJ’s has anything like The Duke of Kent’s I will be a regular in no time; the gravy and mashed potatoes were both great but it was the ground beef and lamb that made the dish delicious. Alli joked that it was a classy KFC Snacker Bowl but in all honesty it really was. After our meal and my pint of urBock’s Creemore (I know, its made in Canada) I suddenly had an urge to root for a soccer team and drink only dark beers.
We ended our last day in Toronto with something that has become more familiar to our diets, some Lebanese Food. On top of All you can Eat Sushi, Korean BBQ and “All Day Dim Sum” restaurants that we saw everywhere the most popular type of restaurant that we saw was Lebanese food. One of those restaurants that we passed was Wrap n’ Grab on Dundas. Looking at the advertisement on the outside, we saw that the price of the combo meals would be incredibly cheap. For $11 we ordered two Chicken Shawarma’s… which was chicken cut right off the spit then made into a wrap with some dressing, hummus, pickles, beats, onions, etc. Similar to our cheap meals during the previous day, we saved ourselves more money by eating at Wrap n Grab.
Considering this was our first chance to spread our foodie wings on a vacation, I think Alli and I did a good job. Sure there are things that I still want to try…I really want to try Dim Sum and a really nice Korean BBQ restaurant, for example… There was a good amount of Indian and Thai restaurants that looked appetizing and all the different Tea joints were equally tempting. Toronto is a huge city and you could eat there for 20 years and still have a wish list of 100+ restaurants. It made me a little disappointed that Buffalo is lacking in such a diverse culinary culture. I realized that more than anything Buffalo is lacking from a “Chinatown”-esque area. Something like that would not only have the appeal of some cool shopping areas but the restaurants those areas bring would be well worth it alone. But I guess I’ll continue to try and find the best of what Buffalo has to offer in the mean time.
I’m definitely looking forward to our next trip to Toronto and for the first time it has nothing to do with shopping.